International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

International Ban Asbestos Secretariat



News text:

Apr 19, 2018

Yesterday (April 18) afternoon, 20 Greenpeace protesters hung a 35 meter long sign on the pedestrian bridge over Rojas Avenue with an urgent message addressed to Colombian politicians, “Congresistas: su cobardía la pagamos todos” [Congressmen: we all pay for your cowardice], urging them to approve the “Ana Cecilia Niño” law to ban asbestos in Colombia. The last of the seven times the bill, named after one of Colombia’s most famous asbestos victims, failed to become law was in October, 2016. See: La protesta de Greenpeace en Bogotá contra el asbesto [The protest by Greenpeace in Bogotá against asbestos].

Apr 19, 2018

On April 18, 2018, a Turin appeals court dismissed charges against defendants convicted by a lower court over 12 asbestos deaths amongst Olivetti workers employed between the 1960s and 1990s at the company’s factory in Ivrea, northern Italy. Convictions were reversed for Olivetti executives Carlo De Benedetti and his brother Franco De Benedetti, who had been sentenced to prison for manslaughter and personal injury by the first instance court. There is widespread outrage in the town of Ivrea, with the Mayor saying: “This story is an open wound for the city and the territory…” See: Amianto all'Olivetti di Ivrea, assolti tutti i manager [Asbestos at Olivetti, Ivrea, all managers absolved].

Apr 19, 2018

A national program broadcast this week highlighted the pervasive and deadly scandal of asbestos contamination of UK schools, with interviews with a bereaved daughter, trade union leader and a legal expert, all of whom called for action to address the toxic exposures experienced by teachers, support staff and children on a daily basis. There was, said one interviewee, a “reluctant conspiracy of silence among those who are in a position to point out the dangers.” Failures of the Health and Safety Executive and Department of Education to address the serious issues posed by the presence of asbestos in schools were highlighted. See: Pressure on authorities to do more to remove asbestos from schools.

Apr 19, 2018

The family of construction worker Pietro Macaluso was awarded $60 million in damages by a Manhattan jury for his premature death at the age of 56 in July 2016 from mesothelioma. In the 1970s and 1980s he was occupationally exposed to asbestos when he was employed in demolition work which required the removal of asbestos-covered boilers from family homes in Brooklyn. During a 9-week trial, the family’s attorney told the jury that the defendants had known about the asbestos health risks and taken action to protect employees at their factories but did nothing to warn the public or people like Mr. Macaluso. See: Critics say tort reform necessary after $60M asbestos settlement.

Apr 19, 2018

A paper examining how multiple agencies and authorities collaborated to deal with a 2016 discovery by the Public Health Department of the Government of Aragon that asbestos-containing brake linings imported from China were being sold in Zaragoza and elsewhere in Spain considers the interactions between EU laws and regulations and public administrations throughout Spain, and concludes that the operation of the current system is impacted by the fragmented nature of political authority and the autonomy of the different public administrations. See: Occupational health administrative coordination a propos of a case: brake linings with asbestos in a company.

Apr 17, 2018

A commentary calling for the immediate ban on the import, processing and use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in Uganda urges the authorities to adopt a “guided national decommissioning plan purposed to protect the public and the environment” from asbestos exposures, and highlights the health risk to citizens of exposure to asbestos products contained in deteriorating older buildings, stating that: “maintenance workers of old asbestos structures have considerable risks comparable to that of industrial workers due to asbestos dust.” See: Asbestos: What Uganda needs to do about the risky exposure.

Apr 17, 2018

Railway authorities in Mumbai, India are undertaking replacement of asbestos-cement roofing at major suburban stations with metal ones that are environmentally safer, lighter and sturdier. New station buildings and platforms are constructed with non-asbestos materials and older premises are in the process of being decontaminated as part of a phased program of works. According to Manager S K Jain of the Central Railway, Mumbai, asbestos is discarded according to safety regulations: “We have directed the stores department to dispose of the sheets in a safe manner, so that there are no harmful repercussions.” See: Mumbai: Railway Stations To Have Environment-Friendly Metal Roofs.

Apr 17, 2018

A Labor Court in Rome, has awarded the estate of a deceased mechanic the sum €236,000 for his occupationally-caused death in 2011 from pulmonary adenocarcinoma. The judge condemned Cotral, the regional public transport company of Lazio and Vincenzo Cecchini’s employer, for failing to provide safe working conditions, including protection from asbestos exposures, between December 1981 and December 1992, the period during which the deceased was employed. See: Amianto, Tribunale del lavoro di Roma condanna la Cotral per morte di un meccanico a causa del cancro [Asbestos, Rome Labor Court condemns Cotral for mechanic’s cancer death].

Apr 17, 2018

Staff at the University of Toronto (U of  T) have condemned the multiple failures to take timely and appropriate actions to protect workers and students from toxic asbestos exposures following the U of  T’s “worst asbestos breach in more than a decade early last year at its medical-sciences building.” Other incidents have taken place since then. According to Terezia Zoric, vice-president of grievances for U of  T’s faculty association, the level of anxiety regarding asbestos on campus remains high; a spokesperson for the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students said that urgent clarification regarding the asbestos situation was needed. See: University of Toronto criticized for poor handling of asbestos issues on campus.

Apr 17, 2018

Asbestos in Metro de Madrid rolling stock on lines 1, 6 and 9, will be investigated by a commission of enquiry with deliberations beginning on May 11 and taking place on Fridays once a month until December. Submissions will be heard from Metro executives, affected workers, occupational health experts and others. Findings will be shared with the authorities in Argentina who are investigating the purchase by Subterraneos de Buenos Aires of toxic second-hand Spanish rolling stock. See: Podemos presidirá la comisión de investigación del amianto en el Metro pese a la oposición del PSOE [Podemos will preside over the committee investigating asbestos in the Metro despite opposition from the PSOE].

Apr 13, 2018

According to a report issued by the Vietnam Roof Sheeting Association, the consumption of asbestos roofing in Vietnam fell by up to 35% in 2017 as consumers sought safer alternatives. The Association acknowledged the growth in ban asbestos advocacy and increasing consumer support for alternative products. The cost advantage posed by asbestos sheeting has been neutralized by the availability of cheaper steel materials also suitable for poorer people. Total asbestos roofing production in 2017 was 55.8 million square meters, equal to 66% of that in 2016. See: Roofing for the poor: shifting consumption patterns (Eng. translation of: Tấm lợp cho người nghèo: Chuyển dịch xu hướng mới).

Apr 13, 2018

The Cancer Council of Western Australia has named Professor Anna Nowak the Cancer Researcher of the Year 2018 at a ceremony in Perth. Presenting her award, the Council spokesperson highlighted her “outstanding contribution to cancer research over the previous 12-24 months.” Prof. Nowak is, the citation stated: “a world-leading clinical researcher in mesothelioma. She combines detailed laboratory knowledge with outstanding clinical trials experience, collaborative spirit and multidisciplinary drive, to improve both cancer research and patient outcomes.” See: 2018 Research Excellence Awards celebrate 3 of WA's brightest researchers.

Apr 12, 2018

A TV broadcast has revealed this week that more children’s make-up sets sold by Claire's Accessories in its 32 Dutch outlets were contaminated with asbestos than was previously known. The extent of the contamination was discovered as a result of research commissioned by EenVandaag – a current affairs program on public TV. Toxic fibers have been found in the cosmetics sold under the names: Bedazzled rainbow heart make-up, Rainbow Bedazzled Star Makeup Set, Claire's Compact Powder and Claire's expert shadow and highlight finishing kit. Concerns have been raised as to whether the company’s products “can still be trusted” after these discoveries. See: Claire’s kindermake-up schandaal breidt zich verder uit [Claire's children’s makeup scandal expands further].

Apr 12, 2018

João Batista de Castro Júnior, federal judge of the 1st Court of the Judicial Branch of Vitória da Conquista, has issued a decisive judgment regarding the negligence of SAMA – a subsidiary of Eternit – and Saint-Gobain in spreading contamination throughout the environment of the Bom Jesus da Serra region, southwest of Bahia, Brazil. The Judge ordered the demolition of houses and roads built with asbestos tailings, the removal of the toxic debris and payment of $31 million for collective moral damages. See: Justiça Federal manda derrubar casas construídas com Amianto [Federal court orders to demolish houses built with asbestos].

Apr 12, 2018

According to a new survey by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), nearly a 25% of British building workers believe they have been occupationally exposed to asbestos. The release of the survey coincided with the launch of the IOSH’s latest “No Time To Lose” occupational cancer campaign. Some of the statistics reported were startling: 15% of workers said they had never been informed of the asbestos hazard, 33% never checked the asbestos register before starting work on a new site and 18% said if they found asbestos they would be unsure or have no idea of what to do. See: Asbestos: 23% of construction workers exposed.

Apr 12, 2018

An investigation into the contentious sale of 73 asbestos-contaminated trains by Metro de Madrid in 2011 to Argentina has been announced by the Community of Madrid with the Minister of Transport, Housing and Infrastructure Rosalía Gonzalo telling the Assembly’s plenary session that those who failed to comply with Spanish laws will be held to account. Opposition spokesmen queried the lack of action regarding asbestos in older Metro de Madrid vehicles. See: La Comunidad de Madrid abrirá una investigación sobre la venta de trenes de Metro con amianto a Buenos Aires [The Community of Madrid will open an investigation on the sale of Metro trains containing asbestos to Buenos Aires].

Apr 16, 2018

A historic breakthrough occurred in a US courtroom this month when a New Jersey jury handed down the first mesothelioma claimant’s verdict against Johnson & Johnson to Stephen Lanzo, a 46-year-old investment banker, who contracted the fatal asbestos cancer after decades of exposure to the company’s talc-based baby powder. On Thursday, April 5, 2018, $30 million was awarded to Mr. Lanzo with a further $7 million to his wife Kendra. On April 11, 2018, the jurors decided that the defendants’ “outrageous and egregious” behaviour warranted further censure and ordered that a further $80 million in punitive damages be paid. Pivotal to the outcome of this case was evidence and corporate strategies revealed in confidential corporate documents. [Read full article]

Mar 8, 2018

On January 31, 2018 the latest salvos were fired in the battle by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health (MoH) against the quashing of its decision to ban asbestos to protect citizens from deadly exposures. On that day, Kiev’s District Administrative Court held the first hearing on a case brought by the MoH to reinstate the 2017 prohibition banning the use of all types of asbestos including chrysotile (white asbestos) which had been invalidated in October 2017. If the MoH succeeds, and one must hope it does, Ukraine will be yet another country – like Brazil – which resorted to judicial action in order to overcome vested interests determined to prioritize corporate profits over human health. [Read full article]

Jan 21, 2018

Our friend Jock McCulloch died on January 18, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. The grief caused by his passing is shared by so many who have worked with him to reveal the human cost of the global asbestos trade. It is poignant and tragic that Jock, whose compassion and humanity was so great, shared the fate of so many of the people whose plight he documented. Like them, Jock’s death was caused by exposure to asbestos. At this sad time, our thoughts are with his partner Pavla, their family, his friends and colleagues at RMIT University and so many others whose lives were enriched by knowing Jock. While mourning his passing, we will remain forever grateful for the time we had with him and for the impact he had on our lives. [Read full article]

Jan 4, 2018

As 2018 dawns, the outlook for the ban asbestos campaign looks brighter than ever with progress being made in countries around the world. Pro-asbestos initiatives which might formerly have escaped detection are now being exposed and countered in record time. The ongoing saga of Russia’s strong-arm tactics to force Sri Lanka to rescind its asbestos phase-out has been condemned both at home and internationally. Throughout 2017 the global ban asbestos network, working with partnering organizations, enjoyed huge successes in multiple jurisdictions. Building on those victories and on increasing support for an asbestos-free future, the prospects for 2018 appear very promising! [Read full article]

Jan 3, 2018

International trade unions, health networks, asbestos victims’ groups and NGOs have today issued a media release soundly condemning Russian economic pressure on Sri Lanka which has forced a U-turn in the asbestos phase-out scheduled to begin this month. Sharan Burrow of the International Trade Union Confederation summed up the collective outrage over Russia’s bullying: “Imposing chrysotile asbestos on an unwilling nation is not fair trade, it is culpable homicide… Russia must not and will not be allowed to blow a hole in fair trade rules.” [Read full article]

Dec 22, 2017

On December 16, 2017, 16 civil society groups and trade unions established the Indian Ban Asbestos Network (I-BAN) at a meeting in New Delhi, organized by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India and the Building and Woodworkers International, to progress efforts to ban asbestos in India and eradicate the asbestos hazard from workplaces and infrastructure. The formation of I-BAN was the culmination of the conference: “India Beyond Asbestos – Issues and Strategies” which took place on December 15 and 16. India is one of the world’s largest asbestos markets; in 2015, over 370,000 tonnes of asbestos with a value of $239 million were imported. India is Asia’s 2nd biggest asbestos consumer. [Read full article]

Dec 6, 2017

On December 5, 2017, the High Court declared that historical documents detailing corporate knowledge regarding the asbestos hazard due to be destroyed as part of a confidential agreement must be preserved and shared with parties not involved in the original litigation. The ruling marked a positive outcome for a case brought by the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum to obtain information that would facilitate claims by asbestos victims and better understand “the close relationship between the Factory Inspectorate, whose function was supposed to be protecting the health and safety of workers, and the asbestos industry that they were supposed to be regulating.” [Read full article]

Dec 1, 2017

A majority verdict of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) handed down on November 29, 2017, prohibited the mining, processing, marketing and distribution of chrysotile (white) asbestos in Brazil – currently the world’s third largest producer of chrysotile. The judgment was binding on all jurisdictions and on the national congress which is, said the STF, barred from enacting new legislation authorizing the use of asbestos. Commenting on this ruling Fernanda Giannasi, who was been at the forefront of the campaign to ban asbestos in Brazil for 30 years, said: “If an asbestos producer country like Brazil is able to make such a decision, why wouldn’t consumer countries do the same?” Why indeed! [Read full article]

Nov 21, 2017

Untold numbers of workers may have been exposed to asbestos-contaminated blast cleaning abrasives supplied by the Netherlands-based Eurogrit Company, a subsidiary of the Belgian company Sibelco, which were sold to companies in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and possibly elsewhere. The Eurogrit product (Eurogrit coal-slag abrasive (aluminium silicate) at the center of this unfolding health and commercial catastrophe is used primarily for removing rust and dirt from steel surfaces. Compared to well-honed protocols put into action by Dutch stakeholders, the UK’s response to this illegal use of a toxic product has been singularly unimpressive. [Read full article]

Nov 9, 2017

Actions taken by Ukraine’s Ministry of Health in June 2017 to protect citizens from exposures to asbestos were officially quashed last month (October 2017) by the Ministry of Justice which excluded the implementing regulations from the State Register. The formalization of this move to undercut the capacity of Ukraine to act in the best interests of its citizens is further proof of the over-reaching influence of asbestos vested interests. Simultaneously, a 2017 free trade deal between Canada and Ukraine – The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement – could provide enhanced opportunities for the commercial exploitation of regional asbestos production. [Read full article]

Oct 31, 2017

On the evening of October 27, 2017, the Worker’s Initiative – Kolkata organized a mass meeting in Kolkata, India where 19 workers with asbestosis were presented compensation payments received from the T&N Asbestos Trustee Company (UK) totaling INR 55,08,924.00 (US$ 85,000) by representatives of trade unions and labor organizations. Despite attempts by the asbestos manufacturing company Everest Industries to deter workers from attending the meeting, there were many asbestos workers in the audience as well as workers from other companies. Information leaflets on the asbestos hazard in Hindi and Bengali were distributed during the meeting. [Read full article]

Oct 13, 2017

A press release issued by UK asbestos campaigners declared support for French comrades demonstrating in the streets of Paris today (October 13, 2017) demanding justice for those injured by asbestos and punishment for corporate entities, entrepreneurs, government officials, scientists, public relations professionals and others who promoted sales of deadly asbestos products (voir la version française du communiqué de presse). Highlighting the importance of the French protest, Graham Dring of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum (UK) said: “The ties which bind French and UK asbestos victims are enduring and solid; their battles are our battles. Today, we send them a message of fellowship and solidarity and our wishes for a great day!” [Read full article]

Oct 12, 2017

In mid-September, 2017, an article entitled: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 84 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2016 was featured in The Lancet. Using data sourced from the GBD Study regarding the 2016 incidences of asbestos-related mortality in 195 countries, IBAS has compiled three tables listing asbestos-related disease mortality and mortality rates, relating (mostly) to occupational asbestos exposures. [Read full article]

Sep 28, 2017

A letter by the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India to Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, calls for action according to international guidelines and independent research to protect citizens from the deadly hazard posed by the massive use of asbestos and asbestos-containing products in India. The text of the September 12 document cites statements by the Environment Ministry that the “use of asbestos may be phased out” and the Ministry of Labour: “The Government of India is considering the ban on the use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos.” [Read full article]

Sep 22, 2017

This paper was submitted by the Government of the Cook Islands to the 28th meeting of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) which took place in Samoa on September 19-21, 2017. This and other documentation submitted under agenda item 13.1 supported the Cook Is. delegation’s call for a Pacific wide ban on asbestos and urged the SPREP to take “action on existing asbestos materials and wastes and address the issue of new asbestos in the Pacific.” The members of the SPREP include: American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. [Read full article]

Sep 17, 2017

The asbestos house of cards built on “denial, distortion and distraction” is collapsing. With more and more evidence documenting the toxic effects of human exposures and action being taken the world over to protect populations, preliminary data for recent years have shown a dramatic fall in consumption and reports from the asbestos frontline have documented a waning of industry influence and power even in home markets. This article draws on recent developments, published material and new data which detail a collapse in political, social and commercial support for the asbestos industry and the growth in support for national and regional action on the asbestos hazard in Asia and Latin America. [Read full article]

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Demonstration in Woluwe Park, Brussels, 2006

Under cloudy skies, members of Belgian and French Asbestos Victims' Associations from Dunkirk and Bourgogne marched side-by-side in the third annual demonstration organized by ABEVA, the Belgian Association of Asbestos Victims. Erik Jonckheere, ABEVA's Co-chairman, condemned the government which still refuses to recognize the plight of the asbestos injured.

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